Nutanix Acropolis AOS Valuable Features

Samuel Rothenbuehler
CTO Enterprise Cloud at Amanox Solutions (S&T Group)
Some years ago when we started working with Nutanix the solution was essentially a stable, user friendly hyper converged solution offering a less future rich version of what is now called the distributed storage fabric. This is what competing solutions typically offer today and for many customers it isn't easy to understand the added value (I would argue they should in fact be a requirement) Nutanix offers today in comparison to other approaches. Over the years Nutanix has added lots of enterprise functionality like deduplication, compression, erasure coding, snapshots, (a)-sync replication and so on. While they are very useful, scale extremely well on Nutanix and offer VM granular configuration (if you don't care about granularity do it cluster wide by default). It is other, maybe less obvious features or I should say design principles which should interest most customers a lot: Upgradeable with a single click This was introduced a while ago, I believe around version 4 of the product. At first is was mainly used to upgrade the Nutanix software (Acropolis OS or AOS) but today we use it for pretty much anything from the hypervisor to the system BIOS, the disk firmware and also to upgrade sub components of the Acropolis OS. There is for example a standardized system check (around 150 checks) called NCC (Nutanix Cluster Check) which can be upgrade throughout the cluster with a single click independent of AOS. The One-Click process also allows you to use a granular hypervisor upgrade such as an ESXi offline bundle (could be a ptach release). The Nutanix cluster will then take care of the rolling reboot, vMotion etc. to happen in a fully hyper-converged fashion (e.g. don't reboot multiple nodes at the same time). If you think how this compares to a traditional three tier architecture (including converged generation 1) you do have a much simpler and well tested workflow which is what you use by default. And yes it does automatic prechecks and also ensures what you are updating is on the Nutanix compatibility matrix. It is also worth mentioning that upgrading AOS (the complete Nutanix software layer) doesn't require a host reboot since it isn't part of the hypervisor but installed as a VSA (regular VM). It also doesn't require any VMs to migrate away from the node/host during and after upgrade (I love that fact since bigger cluster tend to have some hickups when using vMotion and other similar techniques especially if you have 100 VMs on a host) not to mentioned the network impact. Linearly scalable Nutanix has several unique capabilities to ensure linear scalability. The key ingredients are data locality, a fully distributed meta data layer as well as granular data management. The first is important especially when you grow your cluster. It is true that 10G networks offer very low latency but the overhead will count towards every single read IO so you should consider the sum of them (and there is a lot of read IOs you get out of every single Nutanix node!). If you look at what development is currently ongoing in the field of persistent flash storage you will see that the network overhead will only become more important going forward. The second key point is the fully distributed meta data database. Every node holds a part of the database (the meta data belonging to it's currently local data for the most part and replica information from other nodes). All meta data is stored on at least three nodes for redundancy (each node writes to it's neighbor nodes in a ring structure, there are no meta data master nodes). No matter how many nodes your cluster holds (or will hold) there is always a defined number of nodes (three or five) involved when a meta data update is performed (a lookup/read is typically local). I like to describe this architecture using Big O notation where in this case you can think of it as O(n) and since there are no master node there aren't any bottlenecks at scale. The last key point is the fact that Nutanix acts as an object storage (you work with so called Vdisks) but the objects are split in small pieces (called extends) and distributed throughout the cluster with one copy residing on the local node and each replica residing on other cluster nodes. If your VM writes three blocks to its virtual disk they will all end up on the local SSD and the replicas (for redundancy) will be spread out in the cluster for fast replication (they can go to three different nodes in the cluster avoiding hot spots). If you move your VM to another node, data locality (for read access) will automatically be built again (of course only for the extends your VM currently uses). You might now think that you don't want to migrate that extends from the previous to the now local node but if you think about the fact that the extend will have to be fetched anyhow then why not saving it locally and serve it directly from the local SSD going forward instead of discarding it and reading it over the network every single time. This is possible because the data structure is very granular. If you would have to migrate the whole Vdisk (e.g. VMDK) because this is the way your storage layer saves its underlying data then you simply wouldn't do it (imagine vSphere DRS migrates your VMs around and your cluster would need to constantly migrate the whole VMDK(s)). If you wonder how this all matters when a rebuild (disk failure, node failure) is required then there is good news too! Nutanix immediately starts self healing (rebuild lost replica extends) whenever a disk or node is lost. During a rebuild all nodes are potentially used as source and target to rebuild the data. Since extends are used (not big objects) data is evenly spread out within the cluster. A bigger cluster will increase the probability of a disk failure but the speed of a rebuild is higher since a bigger cluster has more participating nodes. Furthermore a rebuild of cold data (on SATA) will happen directly on all remaining SATA drives (doesn't use your SSD tier) within the cluster since Nutanix can directly address all disks (and disk tiers) within the cluster. Predictable Thanks to data locality a large portion of your IOs (all reads, can be 70% or more) are served from local disks and therefore only impact the local node. While writes will be replicated for data redundancy they will have second priority over local writes of the destination node(s). This gives you a high degree of predictability and you can plan with a certain amount of VMs per node and you can be confident that this will be reproducible when adding new nodes to the cluster. As I mentioned above the architecture doesn't read all data constantly over the network and uses meta data master nodes to track where everything is stored. Looking at other hyper converged architectures you won't get that kind of assurance especially when you scale your infrastructure and the network won't keep up with all read IOs and meta data updates going over the network. With Nutanix a VM can't take over the whole clusters performance. It will have an influence on other VMs on the local node since they share the local hot tier (SSD) but that's much better compared to today's noisy neighbor and IO blender issues with external storage arrays. If you should have too little local hot storage (SSD) your VMs are allowed to consume remote SSD with secondary priority over the other node's local VMs. This means no more data locality but is better than accessing local SATA instead. Once you move away some VMs or the load on the VM gets smaller you automatically get your data locality back. As described further down Nutanix can tell you exactly what virtual disk uses how much local (and possibliy remote) data, you get full transparency there as well. Extremely fast I think it is known that hyper converged systems offer very high storage performance. Not much to add here but to say that it is indeed extremely fast compared to traditional storage arrays. And yes a full flash Nutanix cluster is as fast (if not faster) than an external full flash storage array with the added benefit that you read from you local SSD and don't have to traverse the network/SAN to get it (that and of course all other hyper convergence benefits). Performance was the area where Nutanix had the most focus when releasing 4.6 earlier this year. The great flexibility of working with small blocks (extends) rather than the whole object on the storage layer comes at the price of much greater meta data complexity since you need to track all these small entities through out the cluster. To my understanding Nutanix invested a great deal of engineering to make their meta data layer extremely efficient to be able to even beat the performance of an object based implementation. As a partner we regularly conduct IO tests in our lab and at our customers and it was very impressive to see how all existing customers could benefit from 30-50% better performance by simply applying the latest software (using one-click upgrade of course). Intelligent Since Nutanix has full visibility into every single virtual disks of every single VM it also has lots of ways to optimize how it deals with our data. This is not only the simple random vs sequential way of processing data but it allows to not have one application take over all system performance and let others starve (to name one example). During a support case we can see all sorts of crazy information (I have a storage background so I can get pretty excited about this) like where exactly your applications consumes it's resources (local, remote disks). What block size is used random/sequential, working set size (hot data) and lots more. All with single virtual disk granularity. At some point they were even thinking at making a tool which would look inside your VM and tell you what files (actually sub file level) are currently hot because the data is there and just needs to be visualized. Extensible If you take a look at the up... View full review »
Senior9883
Senior Business Analyst with 51-200 employees
On-demand scaling is the most valuable feature, I can keep on scaling on-demand. Secondly, Nutanix allows me to create my own configuration. I can create my own configuration and I can get all of it as per my configuration. Number three is that in Nutanix if I do three or four nodes if I look at the traditional environment I have to really figure out the wave concept. Connect wave one, wave two, wave six, wave five. In Nutanix I don't have any of these issues. Lastly, deduplication. Deduplication and erasure coding. View full review »
Gerhard Joubert
IT Manager at Q4 Fuel
I definitely find the reduced power consumption very valuable. Another aspect I really like, when one compares Citrix to VMware, is the interface where you talk directly to your VM from the present software. We have found that it is a lot more responsive using VMware compared to Citrix. View full review »
Learn what your peers think about Nutanix Acropolis AOS. Get advice and tips from experienced pros sharing their opinions. Updated: April 2020.
442,283 professionals have used our research since 2012.
reviewer1439442
Associate Engineer at Secure Meters Limited
I definitely find the reduced power consumption very valuable. Another aspect I really like, when one compares Citrix to VMware, is the interface where you talk directly to your VM from the present software. On-demand scaling is the most valuable feature, I can keep on scaling on-demand. With Nutanix, if I do three or four nodes if I look at the traditional environment I have to really figure out the wave concept. Connect wave one, wave two, wave six, wave five. In Nutanix I don't have any of these issues. Lastly, deduplication. Deduplication and erasure coding View full review »
reviewer1384845
Manager, Operations at a tech services company with 201-500 employees
One of the most valuable features is that it can be applied at any scale. The value you get for the price is quite good. View full review »
Ran Givon
CEO at a tech services company with 11-50 employees
The management interface of this solution is great. We really enjoy not being locked into VMware as the app adviser vendor. The latest version of Acropolis has a very handy micro-segmentation feature, which we use very often. Overall, I think the most significant upside is the great support provided by Nutanix. View full review »
reviewer1376286
Consulting Solutions Architect at a tech services company with 5,001-10,000 employees
Nutanix has several feature sets that we like. For example, everything's core centralized on the UI. You don't have multiple interfaces that you have to jump between like in some other solutions. It's more integrated for the overall management of the infrastructure. The other part too which is very attractive, is the fact they provide an option if you're not leveraging your OEM hypervisor like VMware or HyperV. That was a significant cost saver for us as well as enabling us to look at alternatives to the VMware tax. View full review »
Mohammed Alakhouch
Direction Générale des Impôts at a sports company with 201-500 employees
I think that the most interesting features are the replication and redundancy. It is a good solution and it is easy to work on a Nutanix platform. View full review »
reviewer1439661
Systems Administrator at U.S. Naval War College
One-Click Upgrade and Foundation is the most valuable feature. One-Click Upgrade makes upgrades and LCM a breeze. Prior to Nutanix One-Click Upgrade, upgrades and LCM were overly cumbersome and time-consuming. Foundation provides an easy, yet very structured, approach to cluster modification (adding or removing nodes). Prior to something like Foundation, the process to scale out additional infrastructure was also cumbersome and tedious. Nutanix has completely simplified both of these processes and has made it very easy to focus more time on other things. View full review »
GILLES THEAUDIERE
Consultant at a tech services company with 10,001+ employees
The fact that there is only one interface to deploy a complete solution for maximum storage is fantastic. View full review »
mikkisse
Chief IT Engineer at a cloud provider with 10,001+ employees
We really love the Lifecycle manager and one-click upgrades. All you need to do is run the upgrade procedure and watch it go. You don't need to update firmware, software, hypervisors, and so on by yourself. LCM can do it for you. It really can save a lot of time. LCM will install only compatible firmware and software, so you can't install (for example) unsupported firmware and break down your system. LCM is a really cool feature and one of the best in the market. I have never seen anything like this before. View full review »
Emmanuel Onen
Enterprise Technical Consultant at Datacentrix (Pty) Ltd
The most valuable feature would be the ease of deployment. That is the most significant feature for me because I've worked with multiple vendors and it's always been very complicated to install the software and get everything running. It has better software to get everything up and running. It has a simple interface. View full review »
Shivanna Gundanavar
Sr IT Consultant at Vision Insurence
Nutanix helped us to install hardware and taught us how to deploy with a reset. We learned how to install the Nutanix OS, and run a network. View full review »
Samuel Rothenbuehler
CTO Enterprise Cloud at Amanox Solutions (S&T Group)
* Very easy management (e.g. daily tasks and also major upgrades) * Simple and fast to implement as a partner * Very mature and stable with outstanding Nutanix support if needed (we are a L1 and L2 support partner as well) * Potential to replace 80-90% of all customer use cases we see in Switzerland View full review »
it_user237264
IT Administrator and Sr. VMware Engineer at a retailer with 501-1,000 employees
One of the most valuable features that can be found, is the inclusion of a hypervisor for free. This allowed us to direct the investments and the budget towards other types of aspects, generating a lot of added value. With the cost we saved on hypervisor licenses, we were able to invest in more nodes and blocks for our platform. In this way, our environment is now prepared to grow much more without having to re-invest in hardware. On the other hand, automation managed to redirect the time of IT staff to other projects, thus increasing productivity. View full review »
YaganadenNaicken
Senior Information Technology System Engineer at State Informatics Limited
I haven't been there to test everything, but I have been to the Nutanix presentation two weeks back on Nutanix cloud. The cloud features an in-site offering, which I found to be very interesting. View full review »
Charudatta Kulkarni
Head - UICT and Associate Professor at MIT Pune
We like that the size of the box is 1U or 2U only, and all the servers are fit into that box. The ease of operation is there. All the servers and the SAN storage are inside the box. So there are no wires, cables to manage. Secondly, since it is a hyper-converged infrastructure, we can scale up very easily. Suppose, for example, we were using 24 TB SAN last year, and now we are increasing up to 96 TB SAN. That is very easy to do with Nutanix. Just install the hard disk, enterprise-grade SAS or SSD, and expand that particular SAN. So within a short span of time, we can increase the capacity of the RAM or the hard disk. With how compact the equipment is it saves us a lot of space in the racks. In previous years we had six to seven server rooms, those are consolidated to only one server room now. We have only one server room and the space of that server room is hardly is 200 square feet. Cooling is easy, the amount of cooling needed is also reduced, so the administration becomes very easy. Reports are generated very easily. Additionally, we can configure the machines, we can create the VDI, for example, at a fast pace. Within four, five minutes, we are able to create the machine. View full review »
Danny Tseng
IT Director at Elite Semiconductor Memory
The solution offers impressive performance. We don't have to pay for extras. The interface of the solution is good. I like the UI. The stability of the solution is quite decent. View full review »
Anatoliy Kostin
Virtualization, Data Center, Networks, Linux System Administration at a comms service provider with 1,001-5,000 employees
* DSF with reduction techniques - more storage resources. * Resiliency - self-healing, handling a failure. * One manage interface - Prism. It's easy to use and monitor your workloads. Monitoring: * Anomaly Detection * In the world of IT operations, there is a lot of noise. Traditionally, systems would generate a great deal of alerts, events, and notifications, often leading to the operator either a) not seeing critical alerts since they are lost in the noise or b) disregarding the alerts/events. Nutanix Software Upgrade: * Performing a Nutanix software upgrade is a very simple and non-disruptive process. View full review »
reviewer1367490
Managing Director at a tech services company with 11-50 employees
The solution is very stable. The ease of deployment is very good. View full review »
reviewer1315512
Senior Solutions Architect at a tech company with 51-200 employees
Our clients like several features including the micro-segmentation flow, the one-page management through Prism, and the LCM (Life Cycle Management) that Prism offers. View full review »
Jeetendra Nath
Sr. Associate Vice President at Hitachi Systems, Ltd.
The solution brings a lot of convenience and ease of use for the customer. The product is easy to manage. It has easy scalability, which is one of its great advantages. A customer will often look for this feature. The solution is highly compatible with other platforms. View full review »
Mohammed Azzam
Senior Pre-Sales Engineer at a tech services company with 11-50 employees
The configuration is easy and it's flexible. View full review »
Jalila El Ahrache
IS Manager with 51-200 employees
The most valuable features are its ease of use and its good performance. View full review »
Mohamed Shatla
Technical Head at eSky IT
Any feature related to the performance, like data locality, compression, and deduplication are all very important features. View full review »
Dominique Pasquier
Directeur Technique at INFONECS
Karbon is a must-have as it drastically simplifies the deployment of Kubernetes. View full review »
Luca De Vincenzi
IT Project Manager with 5,001-10,000 employees
* One-click upgrade * Data locality for performances * Prism central administration console * Metro availbility. View full review »
Antonio Salinas
System Administrator at DLS-CSB
The most valuable feature is the analytics. It gives us a projection of our usage and we can easily justify any request that we have for improvements. View full review »
Peter Cheng
Owner at SIS International HK Limited
The most valuable feature is its data locality, as well as the solution's performance. View full review »
Learn what your peers think about Nutanix Acropolis AOS. Get advice and tips from experienced pros sharing their opinions. Updated: April 2020.
442,283 professionals have used our research since 2012.